Saturday, February 25, 2012

Me vs Macarons: 0, 1 and 2

As in 0 wins, 1 tie, and 2 losses.  Can you guess where today’s attempt falls?

I’ve been planning this attempt at macarons almost before I finished the last one.  Never before have I been so observant of environmental humidity levels!  As predictions for today’s were around 47% I spent yesterday preparing my ingredients for round three, this time using the Cook’s Illustrated (Holiday Baking 2008) recipe for “Homemade French-Style Macaroons”.  This is the same recipe I used for my first attempt/failure, but I attributed said failure to being a complete novice at macarons.  I am now inclined to change my opinion about that. 

Apparently the laws of physics in the Cook’s Illustrated test kitchens are vastly different than those in mine.  According to this recipe, the egg whites can be whipped into stiff peaks (with the addition of some granulated sugar and cream of tartar) within three minutes.  That’s never happened in my kitchen.  Ever.  I’m usually looking at 7 – 10 minutes.  Today I had enough time to sweep and mop the kitchen floor while my egg whites were beating. 

I knew when I was only half-way through folding in the dry ingredients that this batter was going to be seriously thick.  The recipe does say “until a thick batter forms” but this was ridiculous.  It was more like dough than batter.  There was no way I was going to get the macarons I wanted out of that “batter”. 

At this point I made the decision to abandon the idea of this batter/dough becoming macarons.  It was not going to be worth having to wash the piping bag.  Instead I dug out a small cookie scoop and went to town.  The resulting cookies were tasty, but definitely not macarons. These are more reminiscent of the hazelnut baci d’alessio cookies I tried a few years ago.

Ordinarily, I don’t share recipes of my failures but I’m going to make an exception this time.  Be mindful that if you’re looking for the perfect macaron recipe, you should keep looking.   However, if you’re looking for a recipe for a tasty, gluten-free chocolate almond cookie, I’m your girl.  

Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Cookies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Homemade French-Style Macaroons

6-1/4 oz confectioners’ sugar
1/2 oz natural cocoa powder
7-1/2 oz almond flour (also called almond meal)
Pinch salt
2-3/4 oz egg whites
2-1/2 tsp granulated sugar
2-1/2 tsp powdered egg whites

Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder together.  (Don’t wash the sifter yet; you’ll need it again.)  In the bowl of a food processor, pulse half of the almond flour with half of the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa mixture about 20 times.  Pour into a large bowl and repeat with the remaining almond flour and sugar/cocoa mixture.  Add the pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium speed for 2 – 3 minutes until the whites are frothy.  Meanwhile, combine the granulated sugar and powdered egg whites.  Increase the speed to medium high and whisk until soft peaks are just beginning to form, anywhere from 3 – 5 minutes.  Gradually add the sugar/powdered egg white mixture and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift in about a third of the dry ingredients.  Fold in with a rubber spatula until almost incorporated before sifting in another third of the dry ingredients.  Continue until all of the dry ingredients have been folded in.  Fold quickly and gently, but don’t be obsessive about not deflating the egg whites.

Scoop the cookies on to the parchment lined baking sheets with a small to medium cookie scoop.  (The one I used made 32 cookies.) 

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Let the cookies sit, uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes while the oven heats up.  Bake the cookies one try at a time for 20 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through.  Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to sit on the sheet for 2 – 3 minutes before peeling them off of the parchment.  Place on a rack to cool completely.  Once cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days or refrigerated up to five.  Allow cookies to come to room temperature before eating.


  1. I'm glad you could get a tasty cookie out of your attempt at least. Hopefully the next time will be the charm!

    1. I'm definitely going to find a new recipe for the next attempt! The funny thing is, I went back and looked at the baci d'alessio recipe and I had written on it, "try with almonds". I think I now know how that tastes!


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